Wednesday, April 2, 2014

#HIMYMfinale

How I Met Your Mother ended two days ago. I, like many many others who blew up Twitter, have mixed feelings about the way they ended the show. At first, I was like, "YEAH!" and then I was like crying in my pillow, and then I was like, "Huh?" and then I was like, "Hey there!" and then I was like "awwww" and then I was like crying again, and then I was like "WHAT??" and then I was like, "Oh." Man, I haven't thought about a finale this much since Lost.

Watch out, there are spoilers for those who haven't seen the finale yet.

Everyone knows that, despite the title, this show was never about the mother at all. We weren't introduced to her until the final season. We didn't learn her name until the final five minutes of a 9-year series. No, as many others have said, this is a story about a group of friends.

Sure, I don't understand why they spent an entire season on a wedding only to have Robin and Barney divorce three years after. Sure, I hated watching Barney regress to old habits... as an old man and oh boy that's just disgusting. Sure, it was sad to watch Robin pull back and miss all the big moments. Sure, I hated how we hardly got to see Ted and Tracy interact at all. Sure, I was kind of sad that Tracy was actually DEAD. But I'm not hung up on those things.

Maybe a little.

These are the reasons the finale worked:

1. It's a throwback to the pilot. "That's how I met your Aunt Robin." What's a twist in the beginning is a twist in the end.

2. It's ambitious. I mean, you gotta hand it to Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. Despite our initial anger, we all know that we couldn't have been satisfied with some fairy-tale perfect ending with Ted and the Mother because that would have been boring. No, this emotional finale (two marriages, five births, a divorce, a death) goes out with a bang. And I respect that.

3. Marshall and Lily. They give us all hope in marriage. Three kids and Judge Fudge Supreme later, they're still working together as a team.

4. The scene under the yellow umbrella. Greatest scene in the finale. Again, I wished I saw their relationship more, but there were sure a lot of sparks under that umbrella. And Cristin Milioti is perfect.

5. Barney and his daughter. So maybe Barney learned to love after all. Even if no one really cares about #31. It got me crying all over again.

6. The show was always about Robin. I loved Robin and Barney together as much as anyone (don't get me started on how great that proposal was). I loved how Barney changed and became a better person. And through their relationship and marriage I loved how Robin learned to love and care for someone. But let's be honest. This goes back to the pilot. Ted has always been in love with Robin. And Robin is finally in a place to make Ted happy.

7. Ted ended up happy. This is the biggest reason why I loved the finale. Have you met Ted? He's the hopeless romantic, the heart of the show, and for nine years we've watched his heart get broken over and over again in his search for true love. And he found it. He found it in Tracy. He found it in Robin. He found it in his children.

8. That blue french horn. I mean come on. It's awesome.


I learned a lot of things from How I Met Your Mother. I learned never to get in a slap bet. I learned that you're never too old for laser tag. I learned that you need to work for your relationships. I learned that nothing good ever happens after 2 am. I learned that Star Wars can apply to any conversation at any time. I learned that the 500 miles song is the greatest song for road trips and it only gets better after hearing it 500 times. I learned that high five-ing never goes out of style. I learned to follow my dreams but also accept that life happens sometimes. I learned that Canada jokes are always funny. I learned that nothing is more important than looking out for your friends. I learned that you can fall in love more than once.

It's impossible for everyone to be completely satisfied with the end of a series. But you can still be satisfied with the series as a whole. And this show will stick with me for a while. Good bye Barney, Robin, Marshall, Lily, and Ted. I love you guys.

Also, how HIMYM got me through finals week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

greater canyonlands

I've gushed my heart out over Southern Utah before. I went to the Canyonlands and Moab this same time two years ago. I gushed some more when I went to Zion. I've got the feels for the red rock. Seriously, the second I set foot on SoUte soil and breath in SoUte air my heart goes pitter patter and I feel at home. It was my first time in a tent, smelling like campfire, driving for longer than an hour, packing a sleeping bag, hiking, stuffing my face with Cheez Its, jamming to Wine Red with SarKar, talking about environmental issues and deeper things, and getting sunburned in a YEAR AND A HALF.

On that note: all of my RM struggles, all of my woes, it's all fine. Every RM can benefit some time in nature. Because being surrounded by beautiful things and good people only can do good. I'm grateful to be alive and to experience all of the things that I do. Because it's all pretty great.

Monday, March 31, 2014

other shocks: social things and stuff.

What's the first thing you do when you get off your mission?  You check Facebook. Of course you do. You check it. 
Not bad for a year and a half?

Anyway. Coming back to a world of technology is crazy stuff. So much has changed! So much politics! So much selfies! So much teenage angst! So much meme! 

But this meme I saw the other day pretty much covers it all:

Without warning, all your friends start getting engaged and having babies…

And Facebook becomes a torture device.

#storyofmyliferightnow

Thursday, March 27, 2014

other shocks: body and weight and stuff

So you wake up everyday at 6:30, right? The time from 6:30-7:00 is designated as exercise time. Yeah. That's what they say.

Okay okay okay. I tried my best with the exercise thing. I went a transfer where I ran almost every morning even waking up at 6:15 sometimes. But in order for that to happen, you need a companion who is equally as dedicated to fitness as you. The whole you-don't-leave-your-companion-thing.

Otherwise, morning exercise is somewhat of a joke.

The alarm goes off. You roll over on your futon. You "pray." (You take a nap with God on the watch). Ten minutes later you flip back onto your back. You "stretch." You justify chilling on your back in a "star position" (my favorite. I love the star stretch) by lying to yourself that you're stretching and this is really going to help give you the energy you need for the day.

And then with the five minutes remaining, you do some crunches or something.

Wow. Hey there. Stop the hate. I love exercise. I love it so much. Everyone knows that Lauren loves running and basketball and karate and stuff. When I was in the MTC, life was great because I had a gym to work out in for an hour every day and it was awesome. But, well, with just a half hour at 6:30... it's hard to make the best use of the time. There are too many variables. Companion, time limit, early hour, too cold, too hot, etc.

The times that I did take exercise seriously on the mission (which, I did my best, was probably more often than not) were obviously better days than others.

BUT IT STILL TOOK ITS TOLL. I won't tell you how much weight I may or may not have gained. It's fine.

Needless to say. Fitting into skinny jeans again has been another... fun adjustment. I don't look like I used to. But it's nice to get back to working out hardcore. It all comes with the territory of RM-woe-hood.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

culture shock: i'm not a missionary anymore

I was so scared to walk down that escalator. I hadn't seen my friends or family for a year and a half. What would that be like? Would they be different? Would it be awkward? Would they care? Never mind that I'd been having recurring dreams about my family completely forgetting me. In the last 4 months of my mission, I had AT LEAST ten dreams of me going home, arriving at the airport to be greeted only by my mom and a simple, "Okay, get in the car, let's go home." Me: "Oh, okay, well, are we going to see Brooke [my sista] soon?" "Nah... she's busy. You can go home and sleep." "Okay, well, what do you want to know about my mission!" "You know, Lauren, I'm kind of tired... how about another day, yeah?"

I'm sure that my mom would like me to clarify that this is in no way an accurate representation of what actually happened when I arrived in SLC. Obviously, everyone was very excited to see me. I mean, come on. It's me.

But really, coming home is great. It's awesome to see your family and your best friends. I love my family more than anything in the world. I had missed my niblings so much and after seeing their faces and their cute hand-made signs (seriously, my niece Maddie slaved over that baby) I immediately abandoned my fear at the top of that escalator. I was leaving behind a lot of great memories and relationships in Japan. But the relationships I had waiting for me are precious. Everything was great.

But if you know anything about missions, you'll know that missionary life and not-missionary life are completely different.

On a mission, you wake up everyday at 6:30 and go to bed at 10:30.
On a mission, you can't watch TV. Or movies. Or listen to Katy Perry despite how much you may sing it on a daily basis.
On a mission, you do the same thing everyday. Your schedule is cut out for you. You know your purpose.
On a mission, though the days blend together, every day is an adventure, a blessing, and a growing experience.
On a mission, you have to wear skirts every day.
On a mission, you're stuck with a companion to work with 24/7. You can never be alone.
On a mission, life is rewarding, you're part of a good cause, and you get to help people.

A lot of people are teasing me that I'm adjusting really quickly. I thrive on transition and change. I was nervous to come home and face these changes, but I knew that it was the next step for me. So I'm cool. But that's not to say that I don't have my moments.
The first time I was alone was when I was walking down the street to visit my friend Beth just one day after I got home. She lives less than a block away. It was about 11:00 at night. I was halfway to her house when I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks. I WAS ALONE. IT WAS PAST CURFEW. THIS WAS SERIOUSLY A SUPER DANGEROUS SITUATION. I CAN'T WALK DOWN THE STREET BY MYSELF.

A few weeks later, I hung out with my last companion Julie (I'm working really hard on calling her that) (she came home the same day as me) along with some girls visiting from Japan. Even though I'd gotten used to wearing pants, driving by myself, and getting my Katy Perry on again, I had a moment. And I got super confused. I was with an old companion... I was speaking Japanese... What were we doing at the mall and why we were "wasting our time" (as there is always a schedule to keep on the mish) looking at lotions in Bath & Body Works?  That's not what missionaries do. This goes for a lot of things. I watch sit on a couch watching TV and I feel like I'm missing out on saving the world, or something. Since missionaries and superheroes are basically on the same level.

Some days I just wake up and realize that I'm not a missionary anymore. And that's hard. It's so hard to come home and have all of these high expectations for what your "RM-life" will be like. Every missionary thinks about going home and what it will be like more often than good missionaries would like to admit. I sure thought about it. I thought about the person I wanted to be, I thought about the life I wanted to have. I thought about how I would change and how I would use my time well. But then you come home and reality doesn't always equal the ideals you set for yourself. I don't wake up early, I don't get as much accomplished as I want, and I don't have purpose like I did in the mission field. No one wants to worry about cars and jobs and school and money and marriage and dating and friends and housing and...

But then I just remind myself that no one gets to tell me when to stop being a missionary. Japan changed me and I'm not going to forget it. Sometimes you still miss it, though.
Also, I love my BFFs. And their significant others. #awkwardfifthwheel #goodthingimsupercool

Part 2 in a series. Read here for part 1. Stay tuned for more this week!

Monday, March 24, 2014

culture shock: america and japan are different

Every different country has its own identity. The second you step off an airplane you can feel that you're in someplace new. You know that it's different before you even see anything.

I remember setting foot on Tahiti soil for the first time. The second my foot hit the ground I knew that I wasn't in Kansas anymore - that soft mist in the air has never been anywhere near Utah's atmosphere.

When I got to Japan, I was also quickly made aware that Toto and I had skipped town. Well, actually, after a day of traveling, I had a minor mental breakdown in the Tokyo airport. First thing I noticed: the glare of the window made it appear that there were two suns staring me point blank outside. My initial thought:

"Oh gosh. Where are we? Are we on another planet? Is this Tattooine??? Guys, I think we traveled too far. This is bad news!"

Soon after that, I took my first trip to a Japanese restroom.


NO I DIDN'T SCREAM WHO TOLD YOU THAT.

Two things were going through my head. First of all, a SQUATTER? Second, what are all these buttons doing here?! Yes, true story. You can wash your butt. You can play music. You can get a little massage. The toilets are freaking computers!

Do you see why I thought I was on a different planet?

Man, I got crap for that for a long time. I was really tired, okay? Confused American girl freaks out and starts shouting in Japanese bathroom. Real classy.

And Japanese signs/diagrams are the best.

Anyway.

Some people term this culture shock. After this experience in the airport, though, culture adaptation just came one day at a time. No more shocks, no more knuckles to the nose. It was just one new discovery after another. It layered on and sunk into being a part of me. There's something beautiful about experiencing other cultures and having it change who you are.

But culture shock is still totally real. Subtle, all at once, over time, smack you in the face, whatever form it takes it's there. But the thing that I - and many others before me - have discovered is that there is WAY more culture shock coming home than there is going out.

America is way different than Japan. I mean, it's Amurrica!

  • The streets are huge
  • The buildings are huge
  • The people are huge. The people are tall.
  • The people say hi to you in the grocery store. And small talk is actually a thing.
  • Everyone has a lawn
  • Chocolate chip cookies taste delicious
  • You don't bow to people here. You don't. I might have.
  • Okay for realz, the streets are HUGE. It's like 5 times the size!
  • People actually say what's on their mind here. Direct communication.
  • I can... read everything.
  • Everything is huge. Did I mention that?
  • The grocery stores don't look like they're dressed for a party.
  • I don't have to take my shoes off when I enter my house.
  • There aren't vending machines on every corner right when I need a coke.
  • I... want to speak Japanese all the time.
  • Mexican food is amazing.

First time eating Cafe Rio, such a sweet reunion. Some adjustments are easier than others. This was an easy one.

There is also, of course, the culture shock that comes from the eminent post-mission change of lifestyle. But that's another post for tomorrow. Anyway, with every new experience there comes a certain amount of transition. And culture shock. But somehow I think that culture shock is hardest when you return to an old environment, trying to remember what your place was in it.

Part 1 in a series about adjusting to normal life. Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

guess who's back? back again

I wrote in my journal every single day of my mission. I know, right? I'm awesome, right? Super cool, right? Sure, I was made fun of for my "atlas" ...es. Atlases. (Just because my journals are huge doesn't mean you need to judge. Are calling them fat?) But yes. There were multiple atlases. I mean journals. There were five. NO THERE WEREN'T. There were totally five. Five huge journals. STOP IT. Yes, okay FINE I'M WEIRD. One guy asked me if my hand ever hurt from how much I wrote.

Two things about this:

1. I haven't written in my journal ONCE since I got off my mission.
I haven't written anything since I got off my mission.
I got home a month ago.
Over a month ago.

2. How can I have written so much during 18 months and yet STILL feel like that mission thing never happened?

Here's the thing. Being an RM is weird stuff. It's like I have reconnected with an old friend - a part of me that has just been chilling on a shelf with dusty 80's movies for 18 months. That's pretty cool. Old Lauren was awesome. But you spend enough time with the old and you start to... forget the new. Wait a minute, I think that usually the metaphor goes the other way around. Well, this is how it works for me right now, mkay?

And that's not totally true. I have come back to an all-too familiar world that I was a part of for 20 years, and yet I'm a different person in it. I know that, I get that. I'm different, you're different. The world is different. The world is the same. So much is the same, so much is different.

Guys, my life is weird.

One thing, though. I know that I need to write again. That'll help with thing number one. And if I can take care of thing number 1 and write more, then I'll be able to process thing number 2 and thing number 2 will naturally solve itself. This makes sense, right?

Cue LAUREN SMITH RE-ENTERING THE BLOGOSPHERE.